GOP convention back on track

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By Carol A. Clark

The damper Hurricane Gustav placed on the opening of the Republican National Convention being held in St. Paul, Minn., has passed.

With the storm’s relatively light damage to the Gulf Coast region, Tuesday’s agenda was back to full speed.

Evening speakers included a satellite address by President George W. Bush and a keynote presentation by former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.

Bush called presumptive presidential nominee Sen. John McCain “ready to lead this nation.”

Thompson, referring to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, told the cheering crowd inside St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, “Washington pundits and media big shots are in a frenzy over the selection of a woman who has actually governed rather than just talked a good game on the Sunday talk shows and hit the Washington cocktail circuit.”

The evening was filled with other speakers describing McCain’s courage and loyalty to the United States while a prisoner of war in Vietnam and his longtime service in the U.S. senate.

During a telephone interview this morning from St. Paul, New Mexico alternate delegate Veronica Rodriguez of Los Alamos shared a surprised that occurred Tuesday for the New Mexico delegation.

“We were at a pre-convention gathering at a restaurant overlooking the Mississippi River yesterday when First Lady Laura Bush came in to meet us,” Rodriguez said, adding that the delegates stood up and cheered. “Most of the delegates did not know she was coming until she walked in the room. She told us she wanted to stop by and visit with her neighbors.”

Rodriguez recalled the reaction when the first lady and McCain’s wife Cindy McCain spoke at the opening of the convention Monday evening. “Mrs. Bush is such a beloved figure that the standing ovation from the delegates and others in the convention hall just went on and on,” she said.

Another surprise happened for New Mexico’s delegates after the first lady left the restaurant Tuesday. McCain’s brother Joe came in spent a good deal of time talking about his brother.

“He shares the same sense of humor and wit as Sen. John McCain,” Rodriguez said. “He talked with us for quite a while and took photographs with us."

Rodriguez expressed how she feels about attending the convention. “I feel very, very fortunate to experience this first hand,” she said. “There is so much that goes on behind the scenes that isn’t seen on television. The entire evening yesterday was filled with tributes such as for a Navy Seal who threw himself on a grenade to save others.”

There is so much more to the convention then what people watching at home can see and Rodriguez said she wished everyone could be there to have the experience. She encourages people to get involved in the political process so they too can have an opportunity to experience a national convention.

The delegates are excited about this evening’s prime time address by Palin the GOP’s presumptive vice presidential nominee.

“Everyone is really anticipating her speech tonight,” Rodriguez said. "It’s going to be an electrifying atmosphere.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.